Retrograde intubation: an outdated?new approach.OA Anaesthetics


Retrograde endotracheal intubation was first described by Butler and Cirillo[1] in 1960 as a strategy to take away the tracheostomy tube in neck surgical procedure. On this process, a catheter is handed in the direction of cephalad via the tracheostomy web site and emerged within the mouth; then, the catheter is sutured to an endotracheal tube and it’s pulled into the trachea. Waters[2], in 1963, described passing a plastic tube via the cricothyroid membrane after which utilizing it as a information to intubate sufferers.

Principally, retrograde intubation encompasses the introduction of a wire into the larynx via a Tuohy needle (Determine 1) within the cricothyroid membrane or membranous area between the cricoid cartilage and the primary tracheal ring and blindly retrograde rising within the mouth or nostril (Determine 2). Then, the approach proceeds with the antegrade guiding of a tracheal tube into the airway utilizing the wire as a information (Determine 3). Lastly, with the orotracheal tube which is already current within the trachea, the wire is eliminated and the place of the tube is confirmed by capnography and auscultation.

Placement of Touhy needle in airway and introduction of a wire into the larynx via the Tuohy needle.

Rising of the wire within the mouth.

Antegrade guiding of a tracheal tube into the airway utilizing the wire as a information.

The approach developed between the 60s and 80s, and underwent loads of developments to enhance its effectiveness. It has been utilized in acutely aware, sedated or apnoeic sufferers[3,4,5]. It has been carried out within the supine, inclined and sitting positions[6] and has been used efficiently in each adults[7,8] and the paediatric inhabitants[9,10,11] as younger as 4 months outdated. There may be additionally a report concerning the profitable placement of a double-lumen endotracheal tube utilizing the retrograde intubation approach to carry out an strategy to a lesion in the best lung[12]. Retrograde intubation might be carried out utilizing native anaesthesia with or with out sedation, or below common anaesthesia with or with out spontaneous air flow, relying upon the affected person, the operator, and the medical scenario[13,14]. One of many biggest enhancements in retrograde intubation has been the introduction of the Prepare dinner Retrograde Intubation Set[®13]. It made doable using the approach not solely in pressing conditions, but additionally in unpredictable conditions through which there is no such thing as a time to assemble all of the parts essential for the process from totally different kits.

Using the retrograde wire approach to help the administration of inauspicious airway was first reported in 1981[15]. Retrograde intubation is recognised as a helpful approach in airway administration, which is included within the tough airway algorithm of the American Society of Anesthesiologists[16] in 1993 and maintained within the assessment of this algorithm 10 years later in 2003[17].

Owing to the emergence of recent equipments for intubation resembling laryngeal masks airway, fibre optic bronchoscope, airway bougie, lighted stylet, combitube and video laryngoscopy, the retrograde intubation was by some means put apart within the administration of predictable and non–predictable tough airways within the 90s. The proof from a research performed by Harris et al.[13] means that the process will not be broadly taught and is felt by some to be an antiquated approach in a world of fibre optic visualisation instruments. Whatever the availability of extra subtle instruments, anaesthetists are often confronted with situations the place they’re unable to ventilate or intubate. Though sometimes used, retrograde intubation might be a particularly great tool within the anaesthesiologist’s armamentarium for managing tough airways, and it has been used efficiently in lots of medical conditions[14].

Within the final decade, a brand new increase of scientific articles about retrograde intubation has been printed. Case reviews, purposes, approach variations and comparability with different strategies reintroduce the scientific dialogue of the approach, its indications, contraindications, problems and technical advances. The purpose of this assessment was to debate retrograde intubation.


The authors have referenced a few of their very own research on this assessment. These referenced research have been performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki (1964), and the protocols of those research have been authorized by the related ethics committees associated to the establishment through which they have been carried out. All human topics, in these referenced research, gave knowledgeable consent to take part in these research.

A number of issues have been reported with retrograde intubation, which is probably the most steadily failed intubation brought on by the tracheal tube springing into the oesophagus after the information is eliminated[18]. Most frequent problems are trauma to the larynx from the introduction of the needle or wire, bleeding, haematoma, inadvertent puncture of oesophagus, the wire could cross distally into the trachea somewhat than into the mouth, oral or nasal trauma from the wire or passage of the endotracheal tube[19], subcutaneous emphysema, pneumomediastinum, and an infection[18].

Retrograde intubation is contraindicated within the presence of unfavourable anatomy within the space of the cricothyroid (non-palpable landmarks, pre-tracheal mass, extreme flexion deformity of the neck), some laryngotracheal pathologic situations, important coagulopathy, and an infection[20].

Regardless of the problems and contraindications described, the utility of retrograde intubation is incontestable in particular conditions resembling blood and secretions within the airway[13,21,22], trismus[9,23], congenital anomalies[9,10,11], restricted mouth opening[8], and bone and joint problems resembling rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis[7], airway tumours[21,22] or failed intubation with the direct laryngoscopic approach[22,24].

One benefit of the retrograde approach is that in contrast to most intubation strategies, it may be achieved with out requiring seen airway landmarks[14]. The benefits of retrograde intubation over fibre optic bronchoscope-guided intubation embrace its applicability when blood and secretions are current within the higher airway[8], shorter procedural length and a decrease danger of subglottic oedema and stenosis[25]. Retrograde intubation is much less invasive than needle cricothyrotomy and surgical cricothyrotomy, and if the intubation or air flow situations will not be doable, it could possibly obtain the first goal of oxygen supply to the trachea[26].

Sadly, the success fee of retrograde intubation is variable[27]. Nonetheless, Barriot and Riou[28] have reported that physicians educated in retrograde intubation can carry out it in <5 minutes and in the identical article, they concluded that retrograde intubation is a method that’s straightforward to study and that ought to be developed for pre-hospital care of trauma sufferers. van Stralen et al.[29] reported that after coaching in retrograde intubation by modelling, each topic efficiently accomplished intubation on the first time. The imply time to carry out the approach was 71 seconds (95% confidence interval ±4 seconds), with a spread of 42–129 seconds. They concluded that retrograde intubation might be taught simply with a model. Tüfek et al.[8] acknowledged that retrograde intubation is a straightforward fast process when carried out by skilled practitioners. Some authors affirm that within the arms of those that use the approach steadily, retrograde intubation seems to have a excessive success fee[19]. A Canadian Nationwide Survey demonstrated that older anaesthesiologists had extra expertise with the retrograde approach and have been extra comfy utilizing it[30]. Restricted instructing of retrograde intubation is because of two components: the misperceived, exaggerated invasive nature of the process[26,31] and the proximity of the cricothyroid puncture web site to the vocal cords[32]. We imagine that coaching in retrograde intubation would undoubtedly be an advance that might enhance the success fee of the approach in addition to lower the problems related to it. This perception was expressed by Harris et al.[13] additionally who talked about that retrograde intubation ought to be included in any thorough anaesthesiology curriculum.

Latest developments are occurring to reinforce the retrograde intubation approach. The success of retrograde intubation and different intubation strategies when carried out with the affected person who’s awake relies on the affected person’s collaboration. Thereby, there are a number of methods to make the process much less aggressive to the affected person. Superior laryngeal nerve block, ultrasound guided or not, is steadily used to facilitate endotracheal intubation in sufferers who’re awake[33,34]. In a case report made by the authors of this assessment[22], they’ve described using ultrasound-guided superior laryngeal nerve block (Determine 4) and transcricothyroid membrane block (Determine 5) to suppress reflexes from the larynx, vocal cords and trachea above to clean a retrograde intubation process in a affected person who’s awake.

Efficiency of superior laryngeal nerve block with ultrasound steerage.

Efficiency of transcricothyroid membrane block with ultrasound steerage.

Some authors carry out the mixture of retrograde intubation and fibre optic bronchoscopy[31]. Fibre optic-aided retrograde intubation makes use of a protracted information wire that emerges within the nostril; then the wire is inserted on the distal finish of the working channel to return out via the proximal finish of the working channel. The fibre optic bronchoscope with a preloaded tracheal tube is then rail-roaded via the nostril to the trachea, with direct visualisation of the tube with the fibre optic bronchoscope. This mix of strategies in all probability enhances the success fee of intubation.

A case report printed by the authors of this assessment[22] describes using ultrasound steerage in retrograde intubation in a affected person with ulcer-vegetating neoformation of the oropharynx and hypopharynx that required tracheostomy. On this case, ultrasound visualisation of the trachea and surrounding constructions safe the situation of the needle (Determine 6 and Determine 7) within the tracheal lumen, presumably to permit to decreasing a few of the problems that come up when retrograde intubation is “blindly” carried out, like harm to blood vessels, subcutaneous emphysema or caudal migration of the information wire. In a research performed about using ultrasound in inserting the cannula for tracheostomy, it was confirmed that the ultrasound had elevated the success fee (43–83%) and decreased the time (110 s to 57 s) required for profitable placement[35]. By performing the ultrasound guided within the retrograde intubation, authors have concluded that ultrasound steerage could also be an improve within the retrograde intubation approach and should lower the probability of problems and enhance the success fee when put next with ‘blind’ retrograde intubation[22].

Efficiency placement of Touhy needle in airway – Positioning ultrasound probe in cricothyroid membrane.

Efficiency placement of Touhy needle in airway–ultrasound picture displaying Touhy needle inside airway.

Because the Anaesthesiology Scientific Society is within the resurgence of retrograde tracheal intubation, extra developments are anticipated within the close to future which is able to presumably lower the problems and enhance the effectivity of the process.

Whereas retrograde intubation could by no means have the recognition of different airway administration strategies, we imagine that it’s a helpful various in some tough intubation conditions the place air flow is secured, resembling trauma, higher airway lots, bleeding, secretions or anatomical anomalies.

Retrograde intubation has a excessive stage of ability retention[36] and is a straightforward and helpful approach, with generally out there tools or specialised kits, that may be carried out easily, simply and safely in skilled arms and it could forestall hypoxia, airway trauma, open cricothyrotomy or tracheostomy and might save sufferers’ lives in a spread of conditions.

Licensee to OAPL (UK) 2013. Artistic Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Most Popular

To Top